EP 36 IAEM 2017 Conference and Emex with Ellis Stanley
[TODD DEVOE] We’re live here at IAEM, and you know, obviously, we’re recording this. But it’s really cool, and I ran into Ellis Stanley. And for those of you guys who don’t know who Ellis is, he’s an amazing guy, really proponent of emergency management, one of the earlier leaders. But Ellis, tell us about yourself and how you got involved in emergency management, and where you are now, what’s going on?
[ELLIS STANLEY] First of all, Todd, thanks for giving me the opportunity to sit down and talk about something I’m really passionate about. And I think we have had an amazing week here, in the International Association of Emergency Managers Conference. We’ve been able to learn a lot, we’ve been able to share a lot. I’ve only been in this business a little over 42 years. I’ve been in a small jurisdiction in North Carolina, and a medium-sized jurisdiction in Georgia. And I was fortunate enough to retire from a large jurisdiction, like Los Angeles. And then, in the private sector, being able to come back, and to some of these same communities and other communities, and do meaningful work to help communities be more resilient.
[TODD DEVOE] So, over your 42 years of being in emergency management, you’ve seen the flows, the styles, the things that are happening. What direction do you think we’re going right now, and how do you think we’re achieving that?
[ELLIS STANLEY] Well, a couple of things. One, we constantly change, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The world changes around us, and that change is necessary for us to adapt to what’s happening. And we do that in a number of ways. We change our training needs, we change our education needs. And we learn from those mistakes, hopefully, that we’ve made on those case studies that we’ve seen, and we try to impart that. But in the world we live in, there’s always gonna be something new, there’s always gonna be that challenge that we didn’t necessarily think of; predictable surprises, as I say. This was a book that was done by Mike Bazerman, a professor at Harvard. And we have to constantly learn from our mistakes, we also have to learn from others as they go through these things. We talk about all disasters being local, but we have global learning opportunities. We have to look at how people handle, or how people mishandle things, so that not if, but when it happens to us, we have something that we can relate to; we have something that we can include in our toolbox, if you will, so that we don’t get caught making the same mistake.
[TODD DEVOE] Right. So then, you’ve been able to travel around the world and see some of the larger disasters and those things. What are some of the most recent ones you’ve gone to, and what did you learn from them?
[ELLIS STANLEY] Well, recently, I was in Japan and had the opportunity to talk with a lot of people about the Fukushima disaster. And that was three disasters; you had an earthquake, to start with, then you had a tsunami, and then you had a nuclear incident. Well, from an outsider, listening to them, Japan thought there were opportunities for better preparedness. So they now want to be able to go back in there, and it’s a culture that’s different from our culture, and part of how we reach out to the communities, and involve, and empower the citizens, they had not done that. So they want to now learn how they can do that. One of the things we also learn is that they may not integrate the private sector as well as we do in our preparedness, in our response, in our recovery. So, I think that’s gonna be a change. But we also learn kind of how resilient those communities are, too. And one of the changes we see is the public officials now are recognizing the need to change the culture relative to emergency management, and that’s gonna make up a huge change in that culture.
[TODD DEVOE] That’s great. So, basically, what we’re doing now, and I think I see this too, with the growth of the internet. And I mean, even when I started, the internet wasn’t a big thing, and now it really is. Is that we’re able to learn from different cultures and different disasters, and the news spreads across. So, it’s really cool to bring in some of the things that they’ve learned in the past into what’s going on today. So, where do you see the new trend? And yesterday, you and I were able to participate in the fundraiser, the IAEM fundraiser for the students’ scholarships, and we had a lot of great students there showing the stuff that was out there, it was exciting to see the youth and these people wanting to get involved in emergency management. And when you started, there weren’t really emergency manager programs. What do you think of that? The colleges getting into that realm?
[ELLIS STANLEY] Well, Todd, that’s an excellent segway, because when I talk about different cultures, the cultures in our society, in the United States, there’s a youth culture.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[ELLIS STANLEY] There’s a young culture, there’s an elderly culture. So, we gotta do a better job on bridging that gap. We gotta be able to listen. As somebody’s who been at it for 42 years, I need to be listening to the person who’s just walking through the door.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[ELLIS STANLEY] They need to listen too, to valid experience that we, folks, who’ve been in the business longer. But with the new technology, with the new innovations, and resources, and tools, that are there, we need to know how to best apply them. And the younger folks are able to do that, and the younger folks are also able to influence on colleges and universities, what’s being taught as well. So, we all need to listen to one another a lot better. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
[TODD DEVOE] That’s so true. I like that a lot, that is awesome. Yeah, I’ve actually learned a lot this week speaking to the students. I got to speak to them on Sunday, in the student breakout form that they had. And got to meet some of the student leaders that are here on IAEM. And the cool part about that is that the students that are here aren’t just all 20-somethings. There’s… I got to speak to a nice young lady, she’s in her mid-40’s, and she’s doing a new career, she went back to school, and she’s excited about getting into emergency management. And then we talked to some of the kids that are on their 20’s. And it’s really exciting to see that growth on that side, and so, I think we’re gonna be leaving emergency management in some good hands here, in the future, with these students.
[ELLIS STANLEY] Todd, I think the advantage here is the richness in diversity. Somebody who’s had some life experiences is now going back to get trained technically, if you will, in a profession that is constantly growing, and the mix of the youth that’s coming on. We have to value that diversity. And it’s not just the age diversity, it’s the cultural differences too. We have to get more young people, we have to get more women, we have to get more people of color, we have to reflect our communities a lot more, because everybody brings immeasurable resources to the game when you’re trying to build a resilient community.
[TODD DEVOE] Yeah, I actually spoke to Vince Davis, I’m not sure if you know Vince or not, but he wrote a book. He’s from Chicago, he wrote a book about tribal and underserved communities, and how to prepare them. And we talked a lot about that diversity, the message that has to come through. And you know, you’re right. And having the people, the right people, to be able to spread that message is really important. And hopefully, we’re doing a good job of encouraging people from different cultures and different backgrounds, to get involved in this dynamic, exciting job.
[ELLIS STANLEY] And we also need to diversify our disciplines. And what I mean by that, is we need public health at the table, exercising with us, planning with us, training with us. We need public works, we need public transportation, we need the media sitting at the table, so they understand what role and responsibility they have. And more important than anything else, we need the elected public officials…
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[ELLIS STANLEY] Going through an orientation as the first order of their business when they get elected, as to what their roles and responsibilities are relative to planning for, responding to, and recovering from disasters. And that way, we now have it as a lexicon that we’re all dealing with, and we can better build a resilient community.
[TODD DEVOE] Yeah, that’s something I saw that was pretty interesting from a takeaway from hurricane Harvey, is that you had two separate political bodies giving two separate different messages. You had the mayor of Houston saying one thing, and then you have like… I guess they call him a judge, the county judge, saying… I guess it’s like the board of supervisors here in LA County, saying something different. And I really wish, as an emergency manager, that we could get these guys in a room together, kind of like, a political unified command, you know? And be able to get on the same page and get the same message out there, because it’s difficult. How do you deal with something like that?
[ELLIS STANLEY] Well, after 9/11, what I started training was called UASI, Urban Areas Security Initiative. And what that did was look at it not from my jurisdiction perspective, but look at it from a regional perspective. Unfortunately, we don’t have regional elected officials. You know? We have an official in this space, and an official in this space. So, what we’re gonna have to do is start looking at how can we bring in the council of governments? How can we get with the National Association of Councils or government and stuff? And sit them down and say, we share the same threats and hazards. We need to prepare a way that we can be force-multiplied with our response resources, etc. Who’s on first? How do we get the warning out? Because we cannot count on just stopping at jurisdictional lines. The disaster doesn’t read the plan. So, the disaster is gonna happen, it’s gonna happen, where is it gonna happen? If it happens on a jurisdictional line, if we are not prepared or have not prepared our relationship with that jurisdiction next to us, and we understand what resources we have, and more important, what resources we don’t have, then that’s where we missed our opportunity to have a seamless approach. So, from UASI to regional planning, and then you look at bringing the state and the other jurisdictions in to help resolve problems.
[TODD DEVOE] Do you think there’s an ego issue that we have to go through, to break down before we’re gonna get that coordination? Or is there something that we can do, as emergency managers, at our level, and do it from a bottom-up kind of work?
[ELLIS STANLEY] Ego, maybe power play, sometimes. But what we have to do is suspend that disbelief and lead. We have to show people why it’s better for us to work together than try to work alone. And you really have to have those conversations, you have to bring the people together and say, we can do this, you can’t, I can’t; but collectively, we can do this together. And if it requires you putting in place different rules for engagement, change in policies, do that. Sit down and do it, gap, gives and gets workshop.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[ELLIS STANLEY] We got a gap here, what can you give to help fill it? What do you need to get to help? I’ll give you a crude example. I was doing some work in Boston, the Boston Pops Philharmonic said, we have buses, we have food, we have places we can take people and house them in an emergency. What we don’t have is a credential to get through that line, where that rookie cop, you told them to keep everybody out, and he’s keeping everybody out.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[ELLIS STANLEY] What I need is a credential. And you got a law enforcement sitting over there: I can give you a credential. So, that cuts out the red tape, the conversation has been done, you solve the problem without having to pass laws.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[ELLIS STANLEY] So, we need to do more of that gaps, gives, and gets. Bring the community in, bring the private sector in, bringing the traffic folks to the table and do those types of discussions, those types of exercises, and you’d be surprised how much you can accomplish without laws.
[TODD DEVOE] Right. Like we always say, we don’t wanna be trading business cards back at the card, or in a disaster, right?
[ELLIS STANLEY] And that exercise is called, building relationships. Establishing connections, building relationships, so that when you have to get together, you shouldn’t even have to have a business card.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[ELLIS STANLEY] If you’re not already in the Rolodex, you probably shouldn’t be out there anyway. And Rolodex is an old term, maybe the contact list. If you’re not already on the contact list, you probably shouldn’t be at that incident anyway.
[TODD DEVOE] Right, right, right. That’s so true. And like I said, I see this exciting, dynamic career filed, it’s growing. Not only are we touching our government bases, but in hospitals, private sector businesses. I mean, even Target and Walmart have emergency management logistics aspects. And building upon like, say, a Walmart or a Target, and using their logistics functions to move disaster supplies across the country, I think it’s a really unique way of bringing those private-public partnerships and things like that. How can we build more relationships like that? Is it just going out and shaking hands?
[ELLIS STANLEY] Yes, it is. It is really that simple. We also have to understand what each player can bring to the table. When North Ridge occurred in Los Angeles, Anheuser-Busch provided water. Well, folks thought it was the Anheuser-Busch in Los Angeles. The water came from Georgia, from Cartersville, Georgia. Because what Anheuser-Busch does on a daily basis is ship beer all over this country. And the plan was in the hazard areas. All the new plant in Cartersville, Georgia, had to do was flip a switch, and now it’s water on a can, and water in the can. And the next morning, the water was here, because they get beer here the next day. So, you have to understand what resources or capabilities do you have. And you know, going to Anheuser and saying, Anheuser, I want 10 million cans of water out of this shop. You tell them what the need is, let them solve the problem. And they do logistics on a daily basis.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[ELLIS STANLEY] So, by forming that relationship, understanding what capability and capacity they have, you give them your need and let them fill it.
[TODD DEVOE] So, how do we invite a business, like Anheuser-Busch, or Target, or Walmart, to that table prior to a disaster? I mean, here I am, I’m a small city emergency manager. Can I just go over and knock on their door? Or do we have to do, like, build into like, the league of cities, or in California, for instance, we have the CSCDA, or internationally here, we have IAEM. How do we build this? How do we bring them into that fold?
[ELLIS STANLEY] Why did you say, should we just go knock on the door? Because if you want to meet your new neighbor, you simply go knock on the door. Why can’t you do that for that new Anheuser-Busch, or whatever the company is, knock on their door? If you don’t answer the door, then you look for other avenues in. You know, ideally, if you were there before they get their permits to build and everything, you wanna have a discussion with them. But if you come in and they are there, yes, go knock on their door, find your low-hanging fruit. If there’s hazardous materials, you’ve got, probably, a reason to be there, for inspections, etc. If they’re part of the chamber of commerce, you go to the chamber of commerce! And say, company 8 through 30, I need to talk with you all, collectively, and individually. And I want you to help me make this a safer community. And you employ people, I want you to help me train the community by you training your employees. And if we’re training them to the same thing, look how great that is.
[TODD DEVOE] Right. Yeah, I reached out to… when I was doing my disaster recovery plan for the city I was working for at the time, I did reach out to the chamber of commerce, and they were more than willing to help out. Because it’s their businesses that are gonna be impacted. So, I think they were happy about it.
[ELLIS STANLEY] Right. And it’s not only their business, they love to market the fact that they are a safe place to live, they’re a safe city, they’re a safe county. And when everybody’s working together and on the same page, they can stand up and pound their chest, that we are one of the best prepared cities around.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[ELLIS STANLEY] And that’s good marketing.
[TODD DEVOE] It is good marketing, so much. What are you doing now? Since you’re retired, I suppose, but you’re always busy. So I don’t think you’re really retired. So, what are you doing now?
[ELLIS STANLEY] For the International Association of Emergency Managers, I’m a chair at the global board. And what we’re doing from a global perspective is reaching out across the globe, building connections, building relationships, creating training opportunities, so that we can help other countries develop substantive emergency management programs. Now, I realize that’s not a cookie kind of process. We have to go in, we have to evaluate the cultural differences, and how they work within their own framework. And one of the things we do, we start at the top. We talk to the horses’ hay to start with. And see what they think their needs are, what their gaps may be, and then encourage them to see the value of making sure that their people are educated and trained in emergency management. So, that’s quite rewarding. It looks like we’ll be in Africa before the end of the year, the Caribbean has been excited about getting us involved, and the Middle-East. So, those are the three opportunities that I’m excited about. I still do consulting work. When I left government, I worked for a private firm for about 5 or 6 years, a second private firm. And now I work for myself, doing a lot of consulting in emergency management, event planning, homeland security, etc.
[TODD DEVOE] So, if somebody wanted to get a hold of you for that, how would they get in touch with you?
[ELLIS STANLEY] Just Google me, I’m Ellis Stanley Sr., and you can find me in 100 different ways.
[TODD DEVOE] All right, cool. And we’ll put your LinkedIn and stuff down at the bottom.
[ELLIS STANLEY] Yeah, yeah, you can do that.
[TODD DEVOE] Ok, we’ll put that in the bottom of the show notes here. I had a good conversation a couple of months ago with former administrator Craig Fugate. And it was a really cool conversation, we talked a little bit about the flood insurance and stuff like this, and it was really his passion about changing some of that now. And now, you were on the shortlist for FEMA, at one point, so I know you know how that operates. How do you think it’s going now for them?
[ELLIS STANLEY] Todd, I was just in Japan, and Craig was with us, and they made the best decision hiring Craig. Craig is a preeminent in emergency management, and I think he did wonderful things with the organization. And I think he left it in a position that it can continue to rise. I don’t think any organization, four years after somebody leaves, would be in the same place. I think they need to put it in a position that it continuously grow. And I think I’m excited about the fact that we’re seeing good people come in to those positions, and really, they’ve been pressed this year to show their worth. And one of the things I was excited to hear is how they’re now able to leverage the full order of federal government to respond and help recovery, not just FEMA. So, when FEMA gets over two to three disasters, they run out of personnel resources, because they don’t have the (inaudible). But now, when they can tap in all the other federal agencies, who have the skill sets, because they’ve been trained to do that, I think we’re just seeing it grow. I think the opportunities are unmeasurable.
[TODD DEVOE] That’s awesome. I know that Administrator Long has a hard job ahead of him with this recovery after what’s going on, and it’s one of the things that it’s like, wow, I don’t know if I want to be in his shoes or not. But I think that if we all can support them, I think we’re gonna be better off on that.
[ELLIS STANLEY] Well, I don’t think anybody… following good leaders, Brock is gonna be very good as well for emergency management, and I wish him all the best.
[TODD DEVOE] Here is the toughest question. What book would you hand to somebody, you know, new guy, somebody graduates from college and says, hey, I’m here, I’m gonna work for you. Mr. Stanley, what can I do to prepare myself? What book would you hand that guy or girl and say, read this and you’ll be better off?
[ELLIS STANLEY] Todd, I’m torn on that, because I think leadership is the key to anything we do. “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” was a very good book for me, and there are dozens of good leadership books. “Predictable Surprises”, I mentioned earlier. I think that kind of gives people a good open, because the things we see every day, we don’t really see them. And if we see them, we don’t sit down and take the time to say, “what if?” What if this happened? You know? We see that bridge every day, but we don’t inspect whether that bridge is in good condition or if it’s gonna fall. So, Predictable Surprises kind of says, you know, look right around you, and be able to handle those things that’s right in your peripheral view. Don’t just see them and keep going. So, I think that was a good book for me.
[TODD DEVOE] Cool, I like that, I like that a lot. Predictable Surprises. Yeah, you’re right. I mean, how many times have you driven down the road and not thought about anything else, and, you know, if one day that bridge falls out, right?
[ELLIS STANLEY] It just falls.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[ELLIS STANLEY] And you know they’re been inspecting it, you know it’s probably 100 worksheets to say, we gotta do this, or we gotta do that. And we just kind of set it to the backburner because it was there when we came to work this morning. So, we have to take a look, a closer look, at those things that are right in front of us, and put them on a to-do list, and guess what? Actually do it.
[TODD DEVOE] Right, right. So, sir, is there anything else you’d like to add before we let you go?
[ELLIS STANLEY] Well, I’m excited about the future, I’m excited about the new partnerships that formed, relative to building resiliency around the world. I’m excited about the fact that health is onboard, after 9/11, they are now first responders. I’m excited about the fact that we’ve got a lot of young, energetic, smart people coming to replace us. I’m really excited about that. And I think one of the things I’m most excited about is the individual, the citizen. The citizen, I think, has a greater appreciation now of their roles in emergency management, and I think we’ll see that change in fact a lot more, and I think we’ll have a more resilient community.
[TODD DEVOE] Well, that was a pleasure, seeing you again, and thank you so much for coming on the show.
[ELLIS STANLEY] Thanks, Todd. I enjoyed it.
International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) – https://www.iaem.com
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